Fernando Torres would be devastating for AC Milan, says Antonio Conte
Italy coach Antonio Conte has reserved judgement on AC Milan's chances this season, depending on whether they are successful in signing Fernando Torres.
The former Juventus coach -- who left the Serie A champions this summer to take charge of the Azzuri -- still regards his ex-club as favourites for a fourth consecutive scudetto, but is waiting until the transfer window closes on Monday to see how strong the Rossoneri will be.
Roma, Napoli and Inter Milan will all challenge the Bianconeri according to the Italy coach, who discussed the upcoming Serie A season in the second part of an interview with La Gazzetta dello Sport.
"I think Milan are going to make another signing still," Conte said. "Therefore, I'm going to hold back on judging them right now. Of course if Torres were to arrive, their prospects would change considerably.
"The Spanish forward is devastating when he's got space to run into and I think he would be perfect for the kind of football that Filippo Inzaghi wants to play."
Milan's general manager Adriano Galliani recently described Torres as "a big-name striker," and with the Serie A side after a forward following the sale of Mario Balotelli to Liverpool, Torres' representatives are optimistic over the progress of talks with Milan.
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With or without Torres, Milan will be among a pack of clubs giving chase to Juve, who Conte believes are now even stronger than when he was at the helm. "Certainly they've improved on last year," he said. "No doubt they start out as favourites.
"Unless something major happens last minute, you've got to underline how well they have strengthened. The so-called first-team regulars have all remained, and we're talking about a side which won 102 points last season and reached the semifinals of the Europa League.
"And in addition, they now have good, useful players like [Roberto] Pereyra, Romulo and [Alvaro] Morata, without forgetting, of course, the great experience of [Patrice] Evra."
The starting grid for the season (which gets underway this weekend) bears a resemblance to the way the clubs crossed the finish line last May, according to Conte: Roma, who finished second last term, and Napoli, who came third, are the strongest candidates to dislodge the Bianconeri.
"Roma have done very well on the transfer market and they had a great season under all aspects," Conte said. "I think that [coach Rudi] Garcia has been given plenty of different solutions now. Then there is Napoli, who have to get over their Champions League disappointment quickly. It's a real shame for the Azzurri -- I was really sorry [they were knocked out]."
Inter, who came fifth last season, and Fiorentina, who finished fourth, are also in the running. "I think Inter could really cause a nuisance to the sides challenging for the title," added Conte. "And watch out for Fiorentina and Lazio. The Viola play good football and they have a great coach, and it looks like they're going to keep hold of [Juan] Cuadrado too.
"I think Fiorentina could be a real outsider for the scudetto. I've also been to [Lazio's training ground] Formello and the climate is good there, and it looks to me like they've put together a good squad.
"The front line of [Antonio] Candreva, [Miroslav] Klose and Keita [Balde] promises some sparks and they have got some excellent midfielders too. So I think it's going to be these seven sides playing for the positions that matter."